March 11, 2009 in City

Pirates ride the swell

Trip to state tourney is long time coming
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The Rogers High School drum corps boomed its way through the school’s halls Tuesday morning to stir up some Pirate pride.

They had momentum on their side: Rogers’ underdog boys basketball team was preparing to leave for the state 3A championship tournament in Tacoma, the first time a Rogers basketball team has made it to the state tourney since 1975. And Pirate pride has been on the upswing.

The trip to state “means everything,” said Jacob Partridge, a senior forward and a team leader.

His father, Mark Partridge, joined a morning send-off rally.

“This is great for the kids. It’s good for the community,” he said.

The Pirates will take on Vancouver’s Columbia River High School at 7 tonight at the Tacoma Dome in the first round of the 16-team tournament. Shadle Park High School, which also qualified, plays Franklin High School at 9 this morning.

What makes Rogers’ journey remarkable is the fact that the team posted a losing record of 9-11 during the regular season, dropped five of its last six league games, and went on a three-win tear in the regional playoffs, including a victory over Shadle Park.

“I’ll tell you, we went through a lot of games where there were close calls, and the kids fought all the way,” said D.J. Potter, a Rogers alumnus and coach of a Hillyard-area Amateur Athletic Union program that helped the players develop their skills over the past five years.

“They’ve been playing hard and knowing how to win for a period of time, and it actually showed down the stretch,” Potter said.

He was among the volunteer coaches who took the players to games and tournaments, week after week, in the spring and summer in an effort to bring some success to Rogers basketball.

The historic school has undergone building additions and renovations recently. Eron Foote, also a youth basketball coach, said those changes seem to have made a difference in attitude at the school. “Change of environment and a new school have definitely helped,” he said.

Sam Fletcher, a junior who plays on the junior varsity basketball team, said the team’s secret is tenacity.

“They are hardworking players,” he said. “They don’t want to lose. They took out Shadle Park because they are sick of losing.”

Coach Tim Wood said his players have talked about going to state since they were freshmen. “We didn’t think it was out of the question,” he said.

Senior cheerleader Kathie Ross, wearing a bright uniform donated to her squad last summer by two Rogers alumni, said the journey to the tournament would be a high point of high school.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s really cool to be a senior and have this much happen.”

Said Ross: “Winning is not something we are used to, but (now) it’s something that’s expected.”

Mike Prager can be reached at (509) 459-5454 or mikep@spokesman.com.


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